by Dia.ne Lang.berg
"How to Ca.re for You.rself As You Read"
Reading this book is terrifying for most survivors, as it means you have acknowledged you abuse and are doing something to remedy it's position in your life. This book will definitely bring to the forefront some thoughts and feelings you forgot you had. In order to make sure you are doing so in the most healthy environment, the author provides tips in helping you get through this book.
1: Don't read at night. Most abuse happens in the cover of darkness and it can easily be a trigger.
2: Read in small bits. I can say personally I read a few chapters of this book in March, then had to put it away for a few months. It was just too much at times.
3: Stop when you have had enough. For some it will happen faster than you'd like.
4: Write down your thoughts as you read. Rarely will you remember your first response to reading a passage that strikes a chord with you unless you write it down. It can provide great insight to the thoughts/feelings you are having at your current stage in healing.
5: Make sure you have a way to deal with what you are reading in a safe relationship. Whether with a therapist, pastor or mentor, you need to have someone who can support you in what you are opening your mind up to.
6: Plan constructive ways to take care of yourself. Garden, exercise, scrapbook, listen to music. Find a way for you to give comfort to yourself when you get too overwhelmed.
7: Realize that reading through this book will hurt. You will want to stop. You will want to tell yourself you are being silly and should just get over it. You will want to run from the feelings you will face. You will be completely normal in that.
I had a conversation with my cousin one night while in Chi.ca.go that brought out some thoughts that have been deeply buried for a while. She is the only person in my family who knows about everything that I have been through the past two years and a lot of the personal struggles I have had as a result of that. So I updated her on counseling and how hard it has been, but how grateful I am that she pushes me to do the work I need to be doing. I talked about my current state of being afraid of confronting God and what all that means. She asked me about my dad (her uncle) and how he fits into my recovery. At the time I honestly told her that he didn't. I never expected anything from him, so it wasn't a surprise when that is exactly what I got. She went on to say that both of her parents (my aunt and uncle, dad's brother) are both so upset with how my dad handled everything with me and my sister. I don't think she meant the abuse specifically, I think she meant more of how he handles his relationship with us, but I was shocked to be so stung at the fact that they too have acknowledged his inaction. I sort of shrugged it off for the time being, but I felt inclined to mention it yesterday in session.
I was surprised at the emotions I had when I talked about that conversation. I never felt the need to confront my dad with the way he handled/didn't handle my abuse as well as other aspects of our relationship. I came to terms with the fact that he was not the type of dad that would be there emotionally for me. I had tried changing that for a while but just became angry and resentful. But once I made that realization, I was able to accept him for who he was and not expect that support. I have spent the last 8 years or so really enjoying being around him and not harboring any bad feelings of anything. Even after all of this, I still will be able to do the same thing. But now I am realizing the hurt I feel because of this. I never thought about it. Now that it has been brought to my attention I am realizing how much I have avoided that because it brings me so much pain.
Same thing with God. The underlying pain being that He was also the one I wanted and needed to protect me and that didn't happen. The pain that comes with those two acknowledgements have caused me to drag my feet a lot in session. It almost seems like too much to think about at once so I am finding myself shutting down. Even A mentioned it. For 6 weeks I have been letting this wall keep me from moving forward and I haven't really been pushing myself (with the exception of last week) to get past it. With that was said that she realizes how huge these two things are because I have kept them so buried because they both cause so much pain. She realizes how hard these two things are for me to talk about.
I told her that I do want things to get better, but I don't know what I have to do to start pushing forward. When first acknowledging my abuse, I knew that I had to eventually tell her my story to start healing. With trying to improve my relationship with my mom I knew I had to acknowledge everything she had done that hurt me. I knew that... but this is different. I don't know what I have to do to make things better. I'm scared of what it is I will have to do. I have proven that I will do almost anything I need to do in order to get better once I know what that is. So she told me where a starting point is for me... and that is what I am working on this week.
I wrote a little bit yesterday and kept myself from dis.sociating while writing. I cried more than I expected to while writing to my Dad. I then started a little bit with God. I found myself more confused and annoyed than hurt while writing, but it could have been because I tried doing too much at one time. I'm planning on revisiting it again soon.
I just want to get past this. It's bringing out an angry, hurt side to me that I am not enjoying.
Yesterday I had a double session, in reaction to my session last week. I was extremely pass.ive agg.ress.ive (which is not like me at all) and got home and felt horrible for wasting my time and hers. I made an agreement with myself that I was going to get it together and do what needed to be done... even though it scared the crap out of me. I journaled every day and got some good things to talk about. The best thing out of all of my entries were 3 questions. 3 questions I wrote in huge block print taking up the whole page.
These questions represented what I needed to be asked in order to feel ready to say what needed to be said. To say what has kept the "inner me" silenced so much lately.
The panic that rushed through my body when she asked me the first question was something I had almost forgot. It numbs your arms and your legs, but pools all of your blood in your heart causing it to beat wildly in your chest. Your breathing gets so fast it feels like you won't have enough air to continue breathing. It took me a while just to compose myself. I asked her to ask me again. Another wave of panic, but this time a little shorter. I asked her to ask me again. I sat there and thought... I stared... I closed my eyes. I told her I thought I could answer these questions if I kept my eyes closed. She asked me again:
Why are you afraid to give up control and let God take over?
(through streaming tears) He had control. He chose this for my life. He put me in that bedroom alone. How am I supposed to let Him have control when something like that could happen again?
Why don't you trust Him?
(through sobs and tears) Because He left me. He left me in that bedroom alone. I had no one. I needed Him there and he wasn't there.
Why is it easier for you to believe there is no God than to be so hurt by this one?
Believing there is no God is so much easier. It's so much harder to think that there is a God, that He wasn't there for you when you needed Him and that you are so hurt by that.
Just like your family?
It took me an hour to answer those 3 questions. The next hour we began to touch on breaking down some of the answers to those questions. Free will is what it is, so God doesn't cause things to happen, but he does allow them. Stopping them negates free will. So getting myself to a place where I can acknowledge the difference is a first step. I don't remember how, but we arrived to the fact that God was there. At the beginning of the session, we had talked about my hesitancy to cry while I was there with her. I gave her my reasons then she asked me if I ever cried about what happened to me. I told her the truth... no. She then asked me what I thought God was feeling when I was in that bedroom. My only response was that He felt all the pain that I couldn't feel... the pain I still can't fully feel. If He was there, he took my pain so I didn't have to shoulder the burden. Now I think God is trying to give some of it back to me. I hope I'm ready.
Chapter 2 "On the Threshold"
This is one of the shortest chapters of the book, a mere 3 pages in length. It is begun with a story from the Bible. A Levite took in and managed to lose his concubine by his arrogancy and unloving treatment. When she fled, he went after her and demanded she come back. On their way back to their town, they had to stop choosing a town that was much further along because it offered them safety. The nearest town had no Israelites and the Levite did not feel safe there. They were taken in by an old man and given dinner, before some of the townsmen came beating on the door demanding to have sex with the concubine. The old man, feeling he could not allow his guest to be taken advantage of in this manner, offered his virgin daughter. This did not please these men and they continued their raucous arguing. The Levite, finally frustrated with all the noise pushed his concubine out in the street where she was beaten and raped all night by these men. When they finally let her go, she dragged herself back to the steps in front of the home, to die alone and broken. When the Levite finally opened the door and saw her crushed figure there, his reply was "Well come on... let's get going!".
The main reason for this story is to validate the anger and disgust you feel when you are able to connect with the atrocities of this story. To not be protected by the ones who are supposed to love you. To be taken by strangers and held against your will, thinking the night will never end, wishing death to arrive to take away the pain. To the lacksadaisical response of those around you; "Well come on!" or "Don't dwell on the past" or "Just get over it".
Those that read this book are on that threshold, dying as the concubine was. But the response will be different. Instead of "Let's get going" the voices of survivors in this book will offer new responses: "There is hope. I have been there. I can help."
I've started re-reading On the Threshold of Hope again, hoping to help me go back and reflect on things that I pushed aside because they were too hard to deal with initially. A lot of it I feel I have already moved past, but there are some things that still ring true, and others where my "hell-no-o-meter" is still going off loud and clear.
Chapter 1 (approriately named) "Getting Started"
When I first began this book, I was about 4 months in to counseling, having just verbalized my story for the first time since I first disclosed it to my mom, my counselor and then to the police and prosecutors. After those intial 12 weeks, I never spoke of it again for 12 years. My counselor recommended this book, as she had used it in the past with other clients dealing with sexual abuse, and she liked it because of how it was geared towards spiritual healing as well as healing of the body and mind.
The first chapter begins with a breakdown of the "voices" you will be hearing throughout the book. No, you aren't going crazy... you really will hear voices. ;) The first being the voice of the author; inserting her own experiences with clients and important identifications of the symptoms/thoughts/beliefs etc of sexual abuse victims. The second is the voice of survivors. Those she has worked with and gathered information on all the way up to Elie Wie.sel's abuse suffered at Ausch.witz. The third voice will be your own; chiming in with "Wow, I could have written that passage word for word" or "I can't believe someone else thinks that too." Other times the voice will remain silent. The last voice is that of the Redeemer. For those like me who have struggled with allowing that voice to break through the hurt and pain that you have carried around, this voice may not be as loud as the others. It may not break through for quite some time.
The author writes "... (this book is) meant to assure you that there is a way out of the darkness, that others have gone before you and now want to lend their voices to encourage you. It is my prayer that this book will enable you to see yourself "on the threshold of hope." "
I am hiding.
Not me personally, but my inner self. Something has caused her to retreat into darkness. Is it fear? Is it anger? Is it confusion? I have been trying to find myself for the past month and cannot figure out where I have gone. I feel empty; just a shell of my former self.
I sit and listen. I hear nothing. No inner voice telling me I am strong, I can continue fighting and trudging through the pain. Silence.